Classical Music News of the Week, December 9, 2017

ICE Winter and Spring Concerts in NYC

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) announces their spring 2018 season in the New York area, all following the theme of celebrating composer relationships, both past and future.

On Sunday, January 21, 2018 at 8pm, ICE continues its residency at Brooklyn's National Sawdust, performing a concert of world premieres by Okkyung Lee, Nicole Mitchell, and Lu Wang. Featured ICE musicians include bassoonist Rebekah Heller, guitarist Daniel Lippel, saxophonist Ryan Muncy, clarinetist Joshua Rubin, pianist Cory Smythe, flutist Alice Teyssier, and harpist Nuiko Wadden. The program will feature Okkyung Lee's ha-yeom, Nicole Mitchell's Inescapable Spiral, and Lu Wang's Ryan and Dan.

On January 10,12, 13, 18, 19, and 20, 2018 at 7:30pm at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, the Prototype Festival will present ICE in the world premiere performances of Mikael Karlsson's opera The Echo Drift, with libretto by Elle Kunnos de Voss & Kathryn Walat. Commissioned, developed and produced by Beth Morrison Projects, HERE, and American Opera Projects, The Echo Drift was originally developed by Karlsson and Kunnos de Voss in a full-length workshop presented by the Embassy of Sweden in Washington DC in 2014, and follows convicted murderer Walker Loats, who is trapped in a tiny, timeless prison cell. Using the visual world of animation, The Echo Drift unravels a cycle of deceit, temptation, seduction, and fantastical perception featuring a live chamber ensemble, electronics, and a six-channel surround sound system.

From January 24 to February 3, ICE reprises Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang's the whisper opera in 13 performances at NYU Skirball. With direction and design by Jim Findlay, the whisper opera features sopranos Tony Arnold and Alice Teyssier and ICE musicians Kivie Cahn-Lipman (cello), Claire Chase (flute), Ross Karre (percussion), Joshua Rubin (clarinet). The small audience and musicians are enclosed in an intimate onstage set, as the opera, performed almost entirely in whispers, explores the question: "What if a piece were so quiet and so personal to the performers that you needed to be right next them or you would hear almost nothing?" the whisper opera was premiered at Lincoln Center's 2013 Mostly Mozart Festival, and since toured across the US and Europe.

On Thursday, March 1, 2018 at 8pm, ICE returns to the Miller Theatre for a Composer Portrait celebrating young Irish composer Ann Cleare. ICE musicians perform some of Cleare's most striking works in an ensemble led by Steven Schick, including the square of yellow light that is your window, inspired by fellow Irish artist Oscar Wilde; Dorchadas; eyam iv for contrabass flute and ensemble; and a world premiere of a new work for voice, bassoon, viola, cello, bass.

Continuing their season theme of composer relationships, on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 7pm, ICE publicly addresses the famous Harvard Norton Lectures by Leonard Bernstein, given in 1973, in Bernstein's "Unanswered Questions" at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at the New York Public Library. Originally titled "The Unanswered Question," in reference to Charles Ives's immortal orchestral work, the extremely opinionated and charismatic lectures became a flashpoint for music historians, composers, performers, and audiences. Forty-five years later, and on the occasion of the Bernstein centennial, ICE attempts to bring the perspective of hindsight to Bernstein's achievement. Structured as a dialogue with musical performances, this event allows ICE to use its new-music expertise to gain a modern point of view on the questions that Bernstein so eloquently raised.

For more information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral
American Bach Soloists present their annual performances of Handel's masterpiece, Messiah, in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, December 13-15.

Suzanne Karpov, soprano (debut)
Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, countertenor (debut)
Zachary Wilder, tenor
Hadleigh Adams, baritone (debut)
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Wednesday December 13 2017 7:30 pm
Thursday December 14 2017 7:30 pm
Friday December 15 2017 7:30 pm

Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street at Taylor, San Francisco, CA.

For more information, visit

--American Bach Soloists

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale: Handel's Messiah
Join us Sunday for a timeless holiday tradition: experience Handel's Messiah – a season favorite – in all its historical glory with Nicholas McGegan and America's leading period instrument ensemble Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale performs with an international cast of stars.

Sunday, December 10, 3:00 pm
Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Avnue, Rohnert Park, CA 94928

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Yulia Van Doren, soprano
Diana Moore, mezzo-soprano
James Reese, tenor
Philip Cutlip, baritone

For more information, visit

--Green Music Center

New Distribution Deal for LSO Live in North America
[PIAS] America Announces Distribution Deal with LSO Live, Mariinsky and King's College labels.

[PIAS] America is pleased to announce that starting January 22, 2018 it will begin distribution of the LSO family of classical labels including LSO Live, King's College and Mariinsky. Also, in March 2018, the LSO will launch a new label, Colin Currie Records, which will also be distributed by [PIAS] America.

LSO Live is the London Symphony Orchestra's own record label. Launched in 1999 with the aim of reaching new audiences for classical music as well as dedicated listeners, it was the first of the new breed of artist-owned labels which have helped revitalise? the market for classical music.

LSO Live recordings are owned by the Orchestra itself. The players, conductors and soloists are stakeholders in the recordings on which they appear and LSO Live works with some of the world's leading producers and sound engineers. The musicians not only choose what should be recorded, but are also involved throughout the production process, ensuring only recordings they are happy with get released.

The recording label of King's College, Cambridge was created in 2012 to capture the heritage of the Choir and organ of King's College and the unique acoustic of King's College Chapel. The Mariinsky label, launched in May 2009, draws on the theatre's rich legacy and historical ties to the great Russian composers.

For more information, visit

--Sarah Folger, Publicity Manager, [PIAS] America

Piano Trio Presents Two Premieres in Chicago
Piano Trio presents two premieres by Grammy-nominated composer and Chicago native in four upcoming Chicago concerts.

Sheridan Solisti Trio, comprised of internationally- acclaimed musicians pianist Susan Merdinger, violinist Michaela Paetsch, and cellist Steven Sigurdson, are joining forces for four upcoming Chicago concerts featuring two premiere performances. The concerts include the the world premiere of the trio arrangement of "Ghost Tango" (originally written for piano and cello, in 2012) by Grammy-nominated composer, Ilya Levinson, as well as a USA premiere of "Solar Rays" by Chicago native, Aaron Alter.

Pianist Susan Merdinger, who Fanfare Magazine has hailed for her "magic touch" and for keeping audiences "spellbound from first note to last," recently performed at the Logan Center for the Arts on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Series in her sixth engagement on the CSO series. Merdinger has graced the New York stages of Carnegie and Merkin, as well as many of the finest venues of Europe, Canada and Mexico.

Among many other accolades, violinist Michaela Paetsch has distinguished herself as the first female violinist to record the 24 Caprices of Niccolo Paganini (Teldec). In addition, Paetsch has won prizes in the Queen Elisabeth, Tchaikovsky and Dealey International Competitions, which resulted in her solo engagements with major orchestras and conductors in Europe and Asia.

For over 20 years Steven Sigurdson, cellist, has enjoyed a successful orchestral career, including being among the first cellists hired for Michael Tilson Thomas's celebrated New World Symphony in Miami, as well as a 13-year tenure as Associate Principal Cellist of the Florida Philharmonic.

Concert event details are available at Concordia University Chicago: 708-209-3062; The Family Piano Company: 847-775-1988; Merit School of Music: 312-676-3686; and Northbrook Public Library: 847-272-6224. Or at

--Susan Merdinger, Sheridan Solisti Trio

Explore Mahler Chamber Orchestra Learning
A few weeks ago, during our annual MCO Academy orchestra project, we did much more than merely share the stage with this year's 45 Academy students – from our five partner institutions spanning three continents – in three concerts.

During our project week at Orchesterzentrum|NRW, in any given practice room, MCO musicians could be found coaching Academy students in individual lessons or in chamber music rehearsals. Questions and ideas were exchanged not only at a mentoring session, but also in the hallways of Orchesterzentrum|NRW before, during and after rehearsals every day. And deaf students from our partner school in Dortmund, whom we met through a "Feel the Music" session last year at Konzerthaus Dortmund, joined us for rehearsal one morning.

Musicians of the MCO care deeply about creating transformative experiences in music together – and just as much about sharing these inspiring moments with the world around them. Not only do we work intensively with the next generation of orchestra musicians; we also actively bring music to the next generation of audiences through a variety of projects. We hope that you can get to know more about the different facets of MCO Learning:

--Mahler Chamber Orchestra

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on the Big Jon and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa